How To Play Clean & Articulate Legato Guitar Technique

By Tom Hess

Wish you could play legato guitar licks with much better technique? Well, you don’t have to seek out any special licks to do this - you need to learn the best way to practice legato efficiently as the great guitarists do. By doing this, every legato lick you play will instantly sound killer.

The following are the biggest reasons why you still haven’t improved your legato technique, plus how you can start making progress in this area:

Reason One: You Aren’t Identifying The Causes Of Your Legato Technique Issues

A lot of guitarists do not take a logical approach to improving their legato playing. Instead, they do one of the following:

1. Assume they know the causes of their playing issues without looking deeply into them. This ultimately causes them to greatly slow down their progress, if they ever improve.


2. Believe that they can just learn a bunch of random licks to solve their legato playing issues.

Rather than working to develop your legato technique with additional exercises, try isolating your problems and observing every movement your fingers are making, in order to identify the main cause of the issues. This will show you precisely what needs to be worked on in your technique for making your legato technique (and all the licks that follow from it) sound much better. If you have a hard time figuring out this process on your own, find a guitar teacher who can show you how this is done.

To see a perfect example of how this process works, watch the following video where I help one of my students improve his legato guitar technique:

Reason Two: Your Hands Are Full Of Tension While Playing Legato

Tons of guitar players use much more power than necessary while playing their legato licks. By doing this yourself, you create an excess of tension in your hands making it nearly impossible to play fast with any kind of clarity. To solve this issues, use this basic process every time you play with legato technique until it becomes second nature:

1. Start by playing a legato lick with the normal amount of tension you would use.

2. Use less and less tension until you are using so little tension that the notes of the lick become hard to sustain.

3. Add a very small level of tension back into your playing (just enough to barely sound the note – no more).

Reason Three: You Are Playing Notes Too Slowly Whenever You Use Legato Technique

To make your legato technique become much more clean and smooth, you need to understand how to articulate notes using faster movements. Notice: This is not the same as “playing the notes at a higher bpm”. You can play longer duration notes while making quick movements for each individual hammer-on/pull-off you play. This will help you to clearly sound each note with great power, without excessive tension (making fast legato playing become totally easy).

Think of it like snapping your fingers. If you want to improve the clarity and loudness of the snap, you have to snap your fingers quickly (not only with more force). If you try to snap with only greater force, your fingers will move slowly and the snap will not sound like you want it to. This same idea applies to your legato guitar playing. Check out the video I discussed earlier to see this ideas explained on guitar.

Now that you understand the best ways to improve your legato technique, see if you are on track towards reaching your guitar playing goals. Use this free lead guitar assessment to see what you need to work on right now.


Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional recording artist, composer, and expert guitar instructor. He teaches and trains guitarists how to become great musicians in his online rock guitar lessons. Visit to receive additional free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar articles.